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Cambridge v. Allston, continued

Students in annual parody

Law School Views

When Dean Clark considers the possibility of leaving the current campus, he, as much as anyone, understands what would be left behind. Just a few years ago, he devoted himself to a campaign that raised over $30 million to refurbish Langdell Hall, the law library that is widely acknowledged to be the best in the world.

Some graduates point to alumni donations for the library and the campus, including the creation of Hauser Hall in 1994, as a principal reason to remain on the Cambridge site.

"It seems a lot to ask perhaps for all the benefactors of the school to walk away from the investment and leave it for the college or some other part of the university and in effect to start all over again," said David Landrey '69.

When Dean Clark announces the possibility of the move at alumni gatherings, invariably someone in attendance asks about finances. It is a question without a specific answer yet. He expects, however, that the university would make "full and fair compensation" to the law school for giving up its land and its buildings.

A new campus would replace one whose buildings--besides Langdell and Austin Hall and perhaps Gannett House--are seen as utilitarian at best. Yet many in the HLS community treasure not only the showcase buildings of the campus but the sense of history and grandeur that pervades it.

Attending Harvard Law School may be less meaningful at a different campus, some say. And no matter how large and functional new buildings may be,they would not likely match the luster of what would be left behind.

Finn Caspersen '66, chairman of the Dean's Advisory Board and the upcoming HLS fund-raising campaign, hears similar sentiments from other alumni: an emotional attachment to the buildings and the memories of the law school. And it's difficult for him, he says, to imagine the law school without Langdell. Yet he is intrigued by the Allston possibility.

"It's a fascinating concept to actually be able to design a graduate center with the dormitories and the library and classrooms--and to do so based on what's best for the education, what's best for students and faculty," he said.

Many other loyal donors with strong ties to the school would support and contribute to a new campus in Allston, according to Dean Clark. "Some of our alumni leaders think that it's a great new opportunity," he said. "It will inspire a lot of people to get in on the creation of something wholly new."

A new campus could foster one of the primary goals of the Strategic Plan--building a closer-knit community at HLS, said Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter '85. She cited the University of Chicago Law School, where she taught, and NYU School of Law as institutions that concentrate academic activities largely in one area. "It makes a huge difference both because of faculty interaction but, equally important, faculty-student interaction outside of class, so that you are running into your students, your colleagues, the administrators--you have a physical sense of being a part of one community," she said.

The director of the school's Graduate Program, Slaughter said a new campus could better integrate the mostly foreign LL.M. and S.J.D. candidates with the J.D. students. If the law school were close to the Kennedy school and business school, which have a higher percentage of foreign students and disciplines that are more global than those at HLS, an oft-stated Harvard goal of internationalization could blossom, she said.

Professor Janet Halley cautions, however, that a campus in Allston could damage a sense of community. She also cited her own experience, as a professor at Stanford Law School. The school's remote suburban location in Palo Alto, she believes, led to faculty spending much of their time working at home, empty corridors and offices during the day, and a lack of programs and speakers in the evening and on weekends. HLS is more vibrant than Stanford, a major factor in her relocation, she said. "Its urban location and proximity to the university make it a challenging place, where working with and learning from others is an important part of institutional life," she wrote in a letter to faculty members. "I worry that relocating the school away from the university would put that vitality at risk."

Many students share that concern. Yet a new campus, most observers say, would primarily benefit students, who often complain of substandard housing, athletic facilities, and space for student organizations. Mike French '02, the Law School Council president during the past year, fielded many of those complaints throughout his three years on the council. He favors a move to Allston, citing the business school facilities as a standard that HLS should meet for its students.

"My first reaction was, why would you move when you had all these buildings and a great location," he said. "Knowing more about the school, knowing more about the challenges facing the Gropius housing complex, and also knowing more about what modern architecture could provide, having seen other schools and other campuses here at Harvard, that's pushed me towards a move."

French's successor on the council, Bill Dance '03, sees the benefits too. Indeed, his own experience represents a major argument for the move: Because of schedule conflicts among Harvard's schools, he cross-registered at MIT's Sloan School and not Harvard Business School. A cohesive graduate school community would serve many students, he said.

Yet Dance is wary of Allston, a sprawling neighborhood that reminds him of his native Los Angeles. For him, that's not a compliment. The presence of the business school, he said, has not transformed the neighborhood into an oasis for students. And his own quality of life as a graduate student would have been diminished, he believes, if he had opted for Harvard Business School rather than HLS.

"If it were simply would you rather be in Cambridge or Allston, then definitely Cambridge," he said. "If it were even keeping the buildings we've got and building more and repurposing for the dorms, I'd still rather the school would do that. But if they can't do those things, it makes a much stronger argument for Allston."

The negativity about Allston often voiced in Cambridge is understandable but also unfair, said Dave Friedman '96, who sees the issue from both sides, literally. An HLS grad, Friedman also is running for state representative in a district that includes Allston. "It's understandable because Harvard Square is such a great area," he said. "As a law student I loved Harvard Square, and I think a lot of people who are law students would miss that area, but it's unfair because Allston has a lot to offer. Allston-Brighton is actually really a great community that's very diverse and has a lot of hidden treasures. . . . I think the moving of the law school has the potential to be very positive for the community and for Harvard."

Yet for many students, Cambridge and HLS are an inseparable pair. In fact, according to former Harvard Law Record editor Meredith McKee '02, most of the students she spoke with while reporting on the issue want the school to stay.

"The vast majority of comments that we got tended to be against the idea [of moving] or skeptical," she said. "You get a lot of complaints about facilities, but whenever push comes to shove, I think a lot of students like being near Harvard Square and really like the location. And, to my surprise, a lot of people are seemingly tied to Langdell."

Students need to know that the school would leave Cambridge for something better, they say. Or, as Laura Mutterperl '02 put it, "You can dangle all these facilities, but you're taking away everything we have in Cambridge. How can you replicate everything that is built up here down there?"

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